‘Citizens should be allowed to video-record Ward Committee meetings’

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The Urban Development Department (UDD) of the Government of Karnataka invited Namma Bengaluru Foundation(NBF) and Bengaluru Residents Association Confederation Ensemble (BRACE) members to review suggestions on the draft of the Karnataka Municipal Corporation Ward Committee Rules, 2013.

The discussion of Ward Committee Consultation Meeting was chaired by T K Anil Kumar, Secretary to Govt, UDD. Officials from BBMP, NBF and Brace members led by Sridhar Pabbisetty participated in this discussion. The meeting was called for as per the directions of the Honourable High Court. The suggestions put forth by NBF and BRACE in September, 2013 were taken on record by the Chair.

Some of the major suggestions that were made by NBF and accepted by UDD for conveying to the Honorable High court are as follows-

  1. The term ‘Urgency’ needs to be defined to list down situations under which meetings under urgent circumstances can be called. Famines, floods, outbreak of diseases etc. would warrant convening an Urgent meeting.

  2. Notice of the Ward Committee meeting should be given to the public at large and a notice of the same should be published in a local newspaper.

  3. Member Secretary should be an official vested with decision making authority so as to ensure that decisions taken in the meeting are implemented, and no issues remain pending due to absence of a decision making authority.

  4. The meetings should be open to public and minutes of the meeting with details of decisions taken at the ward committee meetings should be publicly available.

  5. Video recording of all proceedings at the Ward Level meeting must be done and made available to the public. In case the ward committee is unable to execute this, citizens and citizen organizations should be allowed to video or audio record the proceedings.

  6. An annual report has to be prepared on issues discussed, issues proposed, resolutions accepted and fructified. This should be made available to public in a pre approved format.

N S Mukunda, Secretary, BRACE said, “Ward Committee Rules need to ensure that the 74th amendment’s spirit of devolution of powers and functions need to be furthered. Given the limitation of the KMC Amendment Act, just modifying the rules will not make devolution a reality”.

Katyayini Chamaraj, Executive Trustee, CIVIC said, “Area Sabha Representatives and Ward Committee members should be elected and not nominated. The Area Sabha representatives should be represented in the Ward Committees. Veto power of the councilor should be removed as it makes the concept of people’s participation meaningless”.  

Sridhar Pabbisetty, CEO, NBF said, “In a study conducted by NBF and BRACE, we found that, there are lacunae in the constitution and functioning of Ward Committees. We have identified the changes required and submitted a list of recommendations to the UDD. These changes will not only help bring in transparency and accountability in local governance, but also enable citizen participation. Third party social audits will ensure a greater oversight on the actions of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike and other municipal bodies. The section 13 of the KMC Amendment Act needs to be thoroughly revised in line with the amendments being carried out in the Panchayati Raj Act”.  

The 74th Constitutional Amendment provides for the setting up of Ward Committees consisting of one or more wards within the Municipality. Realizing the importance of Community Participation, one of the mandatory reforms in JNNURM was the enactment of laws for Community Participation in Municipal Corporations. In light of this, the State Government of Karnataka enacted the Karnataka Municipal Corporation Amendment Act, 2011. The Amending Act clearly states that the Act is amended to provide for the constitution of Area Sabha and Ward Committees in the State of Karnataka to institutionalize community participation in municipal functions.

The following are some of the additional amendments and recommendations proposed by NBF and BRACE to the Karnataka Municipal Corporations (Ward Committee) Rules, 2013 notified in March, 2014.

  1. The membership of the Ward Committee should be expanded to include members of the Area Sabha. The Karnataka Municipal Corporation Act, 1976 needs to be amended to provide for the representation of members of Area Sabha in the Ward Committee.

  2. The members of the Ward Committee should mandatorily disclose any pecuniary interest either direct or indirect, of any family member, relative or close Associate before the Ward Committee.

  3. The Ward Committee members should be allotted portfolios  accordance with their area of interest and expertise, and should include any issue that has a bearing on the civic infrastructure in the Ward, and should not only include Solid Waste Management, roads and drains, slum upgradation, poverty alleviation and Environment protection.

  4. Rule 5(3) is too narrow in its current form, since it merely covers disposal of garbage and does not touch upon lapses in the provision of other civic amenities like clogged sewerage, non-functional street lighting, non-maintenance of parks etc. The clause should be amended to enable citizens to bring to the notice of the Ward Committee members any other lapse that are within the functions assigned to the Ward Committee.

  5. The Chairman should not be given the power to veto a decision taken by majority of the members of the Ward Committee. The power to veto goes against the very spirit of community participation. Instead of vesting the veto power on the Chairman, a mechanism to resolve deadlocks can be put in place.

  6. A provision should be made for third party Social Audit of all major projects being undertaken in the ward above Rs 5 lakhs.

T K Anil Kumar has called for further consultation on September 19th, 2014 and has assured the members that their suggestions will be considered while reporting back to the court.

This is part of a press note sent by Namma Bengaluru Foundation, published in Message Forward section, meant for public interest messages by nonprofit organisations and individuals.

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